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Advancing regional innovation systems: What does evolutionary economic geography bring to the policy table?


  • Lars Coenen
  • Bjørn Asheim
  • Markus M Bugge
  • Sverre J Herstad


The evolutionary turn in economic geography has shed new light on historically contingent regional preconditions for innovation and economic growth, which has the potential of improving the analytical input to regional innovation system approaches. Evolutionary economic geography has renewed interest in and sharpened the conceptual lens on firms, their organizational routines and knowledge bases as well as the long-term, self-sustaining development dynamics, which may arise from their co-location in regions. At the same, it has been pointed out that an overreliance on imported evolutionary frameworks (such as Nelson and Winter’s theory of the firm and their lack of an explicit social ontology) may lead to a ‘theoretical relegation’ of institutions and agency. It seems also that the policy agenda of evolutionary economic geography has remained largely implicit. In comparison, regional innovation system has been developed in closer interaction with policy-makers and has been used widely as a framework for the design, implementation and evaluation of regional innovation policies in a variety of countries and regions. The purpose of this article is to critically investigate what evolutionary economic geography brings to the policy table, and how this potentially can advance a regional innovation systems approach. The article specially focuses on how this may improve the capacity of policies based on a regional innovation system framework to support new path development (i.e. path renewal and path creation) to secure regional resilience.

Suggested Citation

  • Lars Coenen & Bjørn Asheim & Markus M Bugge & Sverre J Herstad, 2017. "Advancing regional innovation systems: What does evolutionary economic geography bring to the policy table?," Environment and Planning C, , vol. 35(4), pages 600-620, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:envirc:v:35:y:2017:i:4:p:600-620

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